Rossini-Respighi / Ballet For Band / Fennell

More of the music of Gioacchino Rossini (1792-1863)

More Classical and Orchestral Recordings

  • This original Mercury Stereo LP of the Eastman Wind Ensemble’s performance of these wonderful orchestral compositions debuts on the site with INSANELY GOOD Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • It’s simply bigger, more transparent, less distorted, more three-dimensional and more REAL than all of what we played
  • Tons of energy, loads of detail and texture, superb transparency and excellent clarity – the very definition of DEMO DISC sound

This vintage Mercury pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

What The Best Sides Of Ballet For Band Have To Offer Is Not Hard To Hear

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1959
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down lo
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

Copies with rich lower mids and nice extension up top did the best in our shootout, assuming they weren’t veiled or smeary of course. So many things can go wrong on a record! We know, we’ve heard them all.

Top end extension is critical to the sound of the best copies. Lots of old records (and new ones) have no real top end; consequently, the studio or stage will be missing much of its natural air and space, and instruments will lack their full complement of harmonic information.

Tube smear is common to most vintage pressings and this is no exception. The copies that tend to do the best in a shootout will have the least (or none), yet are full-bodied, tubey and rich.

What We’re Listening For On Ballet For Band

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Powerful bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

Size and Space

One of the qualities that we don’t talk about on the site nearly enough is the SIZE of the record’s presentation. Some copies of the album just sound small — they don’t extend all the way to the outside edges of the speakers, and they don’t seem to take up all the space from the floor to the ceiling. In addition, the sound can often be recessed, with a lack of presence and immediacy in the center.

Other copies — my notes for these copies often read “BIG and BOLD” — create a huge soundfield, with the music positively jumping out of the speakers. They’re not brighter, they’re not more aggressive, they’re not hyped-up in any way, they’re just bigger and clearer.

We often have to go back and downgrade the copies that we were initially impressed with in light of such a standout pressing. Who knew the recording could be that huge, spacious and three dimensional? We sure didn’t, not until we played the copy that had those qualities, and that copy might have been number 8 or 9 in the rotation.

Think about it: if you had only seven copies, you might not have ever gotten to hear a copy that sounded that open and clear. And how many even dedicated audiophiles would have more than one or two clean original copies with which to do a shootout? These records are expensive and hard to come by in good shape. Believe us, we know whereof we speak when it comes to getting hold of early pressings of these classical LPs.

One further point needs to be made: most of the time these very special pressings just plain sound better. When you hear a copy do what this copy can, it’s an entirely different — and dare I say unforgettable — listening experience.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Pineapple Poll (Suite From The Ballet) – Sullivan

Opening Number
Jasper’s Dance
Poll’s Dance
Finale

La Boutique Fantasque (The Fantastic Toy Shop) – Rossini-Respighi

Danse Cosaque
Nocturne
Allegro Non Troppo
Mazurka
Tarantelle
Valse Lente
Can-Can
Andantino
Galop

Side Two

Ballet Music From “Faust” – Gounod

Waltz
Ensemble Of Helen
The Trojan Maidens
Cleopatra And Her Nubian Slaves
Bacchanale Of Rhyne

Pineapple Poll

Pineapple Poll is a Gilbert and Sullivan-inspired comic ballet, created by choreographer John Cranko with arranger Sir Charles Mackerras. Pineapple Poll is based on “The Bumboat Woman’s Story”, one of W. S. Gilbert’s Bab Ballads, written in 1870. The Gilbert and Sullivan opera H.M.S. Pinafore was also based, in part, on this story. For the ballet, Cranko expanded the story of the Bab Ballad and added a happy ending. All the music is arranged from Sullivan’s music.

The piece premiered in 1951 at Sadler’s Wells Theatre and was given many revivals internationally during the following decades. It remains in the repertoire of the Birmingham Royal Ballet. It has also been recorded many times.

La Boutique Fantasque (The Fantastic Toy Shop)

La Boutique fantasque, also known as The Magic Toyshop or The Fantastic Toyshop, is a ballet in one act conceived by Léonide Massine, who devised the choreography for a libretto written with the artist André Derain, a pioneer of Fauvism. Derain also designed the décor and costumes for the ballet. Ottorino Respighi wrote the music based on piano pieces by Gioachino Rossini. Its world premiere was at the Alhambra Theatre in London on 5 June 1919, performed by Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes.

Massine described how, in Rome for a ballet season, Respighi brought the score of Rossini’s Péchés de vieillesse to Diaghilev. The impresario played them to Massine and Respighi. Toulouse-Lautrec was an influence on the period setting and style of La Boutique fantasque, and Massine envisaged the principal character “quite Lautrec-like”. Diaghilev arranged for Massine to meet Derain in Paris, and they worked out the scenario with the artist’s marionette theatre at his home on the rue Bonaparte. The date of the action was moved from 1832 to the 1860s.

The story of the ballet has similarities to Die Puppenfee (“The Fairy Doll”) of Josef Bayer, an old German ballet that had been performed by Jose Mendez in Moscow in 1897 and by Serge and Nicholas Legat in Saint Petersburg in 1903. Others note the similarities to Hans Christian Andersen’s The Steadfast Tin Soldier.

Massine’s scenario centers on the love story between two can-can dancer dolls in a toyshop, incorporating elements of comedy, national folk dance and mime, as well as classical choreography.

Faust

Faust is an opera in five acts by Charles Gounod to a French libretto by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré from Carré’s play Faust et Marguerite, in turn loosely based on Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Faust, Part One. It debuted at the Théâtre Lyrique on the Boulevard du Temple in Paris on 19 March 1859, with influential sets designed by Charles-Antoine Cambon and Joseph Thierry, Jean Émile Daran, Édouard Desplechin, and Philippe Chaperon.

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